It is early June, and the Waterfront Concerts’ Machias Savings Bank Summer 2016 concert season is off and running at its Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion location right here in the heart of Bangor, Maine. If Saturday night’s Dierks Bentley show was any indication of what’s in store for music lovers this summer then this has fun written all over it. Well, there was that good soaking shower that went through right before the music started, but what’s some smudged mascara and soggy jeans when you’re at the biggest party in Bangor on a June evening? And the tour is called Somewhere on a Beach, so the downpour and the glorious double rainbow only seemed appropriate to the spirit of the show.
First, a little shout out to the Waterfront crew who have evidently been working hard upgrading the venue. Great job! A new fence, a decked out VIP lounge, and much more, including the edition of brand new video screens studding the sides of the stage for everyone’s viewing pleasure. What more can we ask for? Let the noise complaints start rolling in while the rest of us enjoy the shows. Turn it up!
Starting out the evening with a quick set, new comer Tucker Beathard fired up the crowd with his edgy country sound. This young man is short on “skinny jeans country” and long on guitar and growl and great writing. He reminded me of a young Gary Allen meets Steve Earle with a bit of Brantley Gilbert thrown in to keep everything from being too lonesome. Those are some big boots to fill, but based on his energy and songwriting blood, he’s up for the challenge. This was a fantastic set. Listen for his radio single, “Rock On,” and check out more at www.tuckerbeathard.com.
Keeping the show rolling, Cam was up next. She was in Bangor just recently, opening for Brad Paisley, and gave fans another wonderful performance on the Waterfront. I have to say that she is adorable with her blond curls and tennis shoes, but Cam isn’t just cute. She’s sassy and funny and backs it all up with tremendous vocals, gutsy, articulate lyrics, and a genuine connection to the crowd. She is a joy to watch perform. Her setlist offered up a nice variety of fan favorite tunes, including “Half Broke Heart,” “Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty,” and newest single, “May Day.” Tune in to see more of her at the CMT awards this week! This young woman is the real deal.
Third in line for the evening – Randy Houser. Big Sound. Big Music. Big Voice. Big Stage Show. If you don’t have fun watching Randy Houser, you just might be dead. Houser’s songs express how we all want to feel – alive, free, in love, breaking loose – and he wraps it in driving guitars and hooks. He brings a rock show to the country stage and gives it everything he has.
This is jaw dropping stuff, folks. Since putting his mark on country music with his rough and rowdy hit, “Boots On,” Houser’s look has been a bit domesticated, but that hasn’t slowed down his drive and energy or the power in his vocals. Starting the night with the “We Went” video, accompanied by the mind-bending “Whole Lotta Folsom” from The Surreal McCoys, Houser ran through his hits, now a pretty deep list, including “How Country Feels” and “Running Out of Midnight.” Notable and worth the price of admission: Houser’s acoustic rendition of “Like a Cowboy.” Accompanied word for word by a few thousand fans, Houser’s voice rang out over the Penobscot River. Amazing. Houser came through Bangor’s Waterfront at another Brad Paisley performance, and he’s a must-see artist if you are a fan of country music.
Finally, Somewhere on a Beach Tour headliner, Dierks Bentley took the Waterfront stage for a rowdy, Solo cup-studded party. Bentley has been a frequent visitor to Bangor in recent years, but based on the size and enthusiasm of the crowd on hand, he’s welcome back anytime. Bentley’s sound was the most traditional country feel of the evening. The show started off showcasing fiddle, banjo, and guitar for the bluegrass sound of “Up on the Ridge,” and carried on that sweet, subtle country vibe throughout the show with some sweet steel guitar. The stage show shifted from barebones to high tech video screen and lots of lights after the first few songs, and the party was just getting started. Simultaneously laid back and high energy, Bentley, as expected, focuses on showing the crowd a good time. With song themes heavy on drinking and the open road, of course, the fans know every word, and join in on the fun. Clearly, Bentley comes to the stage ready to not only share his music but celebrate the occasion with the crowd – shot gunning beer with a fan, falling backwards into the crowd, and generally letting the fans know he appreciates and welcomes them to his performance. And he does give them their money’s worth with a huge setlist, including many of his hits, “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” “5-1-5-0,” “Sideways,” just to name a few, and gathered the stars of the evening back for a cover of The Eagles’ “Take it Easy” before wrapping up with “Drunk on a Plane.”
Good clean fun and country music was had by all!